TREASURE HUNTERS

Flounder swam through the palace until he entered a small cluttered room piled with scrolls and books. Ariel was sitting in the middle of them, her finger to her lips, in thought.

The little fish smiled and swam up to her. "Here you are, Ariel! I've been looking all over for you!"

Ariel looked up to Flounder and smiled with gentle amusement. "Hi, Flounder. I'm trying to find some papers for Daddy, but I didn't know what a mess they were in when I volunteered."

"You can say that again!", agreed Flounder, as he looked around.

Ariel picked up some scrolls and glanced at them, as if to re-enforce her words. "Here's a party list to the coral ball from last year,...and this one's a musical that Sebastian never finished,...How does Daddy find anything in here?" Ariel suddenly paused, as she looked at a crumpled old scroll. "Wait a minute. What's this one?"

Flounder looked over her shoulder as he read the paper in her hands. "Start at the foot of the seat of Atlantica", read the fish with puzzlement. "What's that supposed to mean?"

Ariel looked over the scroll with growing curiosity and excitement. "Look at all of these sentences; they're all directions for going someplace: turn right at the doughnut rock and swim til you see stars,..." Ariel looked down to the bottom of the scroll. "And the treasure will be yours! Flounder, this is a treasure map!"

Flounder's eye went wide. "Wow!"

Ariel grinned at the fish as she clutched the paper to her chest. "I bet this has been here for ages! Maybe the treasure is still there! Wouldn't it be fun to try and find it!?"

Flounder grinned. "It sure would!" The grin disappeared; to be replaced with worry. "But I thought you were supposed to be looking for some papers for your Father,..."

Ariel grinned as she hedged, "Well,...Daddy doesn't need the papers right away,...and it shouldn't take too long,..." She looked to the fish eagerly; hoping for agreement.

Flounder smiled excitedly. "It shouldn't take long!"

Ariel grinned and stood up. "Okay!" She looked down at the paper and puzzled over it. "Start at the foot of the seat of Atlantica,..."

Flounder looked up at her. "What's the seat of Atlantica?"

Ariel puzzled. "Hmmm,...seat of Atlantica,..." She suddenly beamed. "Why, that's Daddy's seat! His throne!"

Flounder grinned. "Yeah! That's right!"

Ariel darted to the door; with the little fish right behind her. "Come on, Flounder!"

Ariel and Flounder floated next to Triton's throne as they looked over the scroll. Flounder looked eagerly up at his best friend. "What do you suppose the treasure is?", he asked excitedly.

"I don't know! It could be anything!", answered the girl; sharing her friend's excitement.

"Maybe it's a chest of fun stuff, like skate-fish boards and trumpet shells", said Flounder.

"Or it might be human things, like pretty necklaces and jewelry!",added the girl.

"What's the next line!?", asked the excited fish, as he looked at the scroll.

"It says, "Swim between pillars til you reach pearl's home."

Flounder looked to the pillars on either side of the throne room. "Those must be the pillars!"

The two friends eagerly swam out of the throne room and through the front entrance of the palace. Once outside, they paused and looked around.

"Something's wrong, Flounder. Pearl lives on the other side of Atlantica; we're heading in the wrong direction!"

"Are you sure you read it right?", asked the fish.

"I think so,...", answered the girl, as she studied the paper.

As they floated there, a familiar merboy swam up. "Hey Ariel! Flounder! What's up?"

Ariel grinned and showed Urchin the scroll. "We found a treasure map!"

"Cool!", exclaimed the boy.

Ariel looked back to the map and her face lost it's grin. "But we can't figure out what it means. It says to go to pearl's home, but that can't be right."

Urchin looked at the map, then grinned and snapped his fingers. "Pearl's home!", he answered and pointed to the huge clam shell which stood at the entrance to the palace.

Ariel laughed. "That's right!"

The three friends swam up to it. "What do you think the treasure is?", asked Urchin.

"Ariel thinks it's human stuff, but I'm hoping for cool stuff to play with", answered Flounder.

"Maybe it's a bunch of coins", said Urchin, with a grin. "Then you can buy whatever you want".

Ariel looked over at him with a knowing smile. "I don't think so. Daddy would never let us spend too much,that's for sure".

"Well; I'm still hoping for fun stuff", concluded Flounder.

"What's it say next?", asked Urchin.

"Let's see,..."Follow the current til you reach a terrible noise.", read Ariel.

"What?", asked Flounder.

Urchin shrugged and pointed. "The current's going that way." With Urchin in the lead, they swam with the ocean's flow.

They had not swam far, when the three were stopped by a wing of the palace. "Looks like a dead-end", groaned Flounder.

"But it's made sense, up to now", protested Ariel. "Maybe the current's changed or,..."

Suddenly, they heard the sound of voices singing through the windows of the palace.

Ariel giggled. "It's Sebastian's music room!" She looked at the windows, then down to the scroll. "Enter a window and follow the noise to a stand". Ariel rolled up the scroll and swam to the window; accompanied by Urchin and Flounder. The mermaid peeked inside and saw the crab leading her sisters through a song. Ariel's eyes went to Sebastian's coral music stand; rooted in one spot. "The music stand!", she whispered excitedly.

Cautiously, the trio swam through the window and hugged the wall; trying not to be seen by Sebastian.

The crab was looking grouchy as he pointed to the girls. "Okay; we'll try it again! I'm needing Ariel's voice bad, but dat girl is doing someting for the King. She tinks she's being clever gettin' out of the lesson, but she'll only have twice as much to do next week."

Ariel started at this statement and almost knocked over a shell tuba. Ariel's sisters had seen her by this time, but she was at Sebastian's back. Their mouths dropped, as they watched the strange scene.

Sebastian frowned and looked as if he didn't know what to make of the princesses. "Well, your mouths are open but nothing's coming out,..."

Ariel made silent pleas to her sisters to stay quiet about her presence, and the girls started singing again.

The crab looked at them with frowning puzzlement. "Ariel must be rubbing off on you girls", he muttered as he listened to the song, while waving his baton.

Ariel, Urchin, and Flounder had almost reached a point right behind Sebastian, and the mermaid was reading the next step, when the Princesses could hold out no longer. They all broke down and started giggling. The crab stared at them in amazement, then caught Ariel's movements out of the corner of his eye and jumped three feet.

"What are you doing, girl!?"

Ariel and her friends looked up sheepishly. "Wellll,...", she started.

Ariel floated next to a large rock. Beside her was Flounder and Urchin,...and Sebastian and all of her sisters. They all looked eagerly at the scroll.

Sebastian grinned and rubbed his claws together. "Oh mon! I can't wait to see all dat treasure!"

"Whatdaya think it'll be?", asked Flounder.

"Dat's easy! Jewels and pearls and gold, of course!", answered the crab.

"That sounds alright to me!", agreed Arista.

"I still think it'll be coins", added Urchin.

"Fun stuff", put in Flounder.

"Turn right at the doughnut rock", read Ariel, as she looked up at the large round rock with a hole in it's center, "and swim til you see stars."

The group turned and swam, with the girl leading, holding the scroll in front of her. They came upon a large settlement of starfish.

"Stars!,...Hee! Hee! Starfish!", laughed Sebastian.

"The hand points the place to dig", continued Ariel. "There it is!", she said excitedly, and pointed to a staghorn coral, shaped roughly like a hand; in the midst of the starfish. A long coral "finger" pointed to a bare spot on the ocean floor.

With the palace still nearby, the group eagerly surrounded the spot. "Down three feet and the treasure will be yours!", read Ariel, with a grin.

The group began to dig.

"Jewels!", said Sebastian; anticipating.

Urchin shook his head. "Un uh. Coins."

"Fun stuff!",said Flounder; digging.

"Human things!", hoped Ariel.

The group quickly uncovered an old chest, which they pulled up excitedly.

Sebastian looked at Ariel with a grin. "Well; open it girl!"

Ariel bit her lip in anticipation, as she looked down at the chest. She opened the lid, and the group all leaned forward.

"Seashells", said Sebastian.

"Seashells?", asked Urchin, scratching his head.

"Seashells,...", groaned Flounder.

Ariel put her hand to her chin, in puzzlement. "Why would anyone want to bury seashells?"

"Alright! Just WHAT is going on here?, commanded an authoritative voice. The group turned around in surprise.

"Your Majesty!", blurted Sebastian.

"Seeing all of you out here was just too much for my curiosity, so I,..." Triton paused when he saw the chest. The King's surprise turned into a laugh. "Why; that's my old shell collection!"

Ariel looked up at her Father in wonder. "These are yours, Daddy?"

"Of course! My first shell collection I had as a boy! I remember now: I buried them out here; even made a treasure map to find them. All for fun, of course. I guess that I just forgot all about them".

Ariel smiled and showed him the map. "We thought it was a great treasure!", she laughed.

Her Father chuckled. "It was! At least, to me when I was young!" Triton looked at the group and smiled kindly. "Sorry for disappointing all of you treasure hunters. Maybe I can make amends. Let's go back to the palace and we'll all have some seaweed cookies and dolphin milk".

Ariel smiled warmly at her Father. "Okay, Daddy".

Together, they all swam back to Atlantica.


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